Salabanya Tabaitou of Malanville in Benin feeds logs into a specially designed brick stove with a chimney that draws away the smoke. The heat-efficient stove with a stainless steel vessel on top parboils her rice paddy in 20 minutes — something she would have spent two hours doing using traditional methods.
The energy-efficient stove and the innovative vessel, developed in-house by AfricaRice, a pan-African rice research organization, is helping women rice farmers in Benin to produce better quality rice with higher market value. The system, referred to as GEM (Grain enhancer, energy efficient, durable material), enables women rice farmers in Benin to produce far larger volumes of rice than ever before. AfricaRice, which is committed to sharing new technologies developed under its Innovation Platform (IP) approach, helps women farmers to produce better quality, nutritious products that earn them more income on the market.
Though rice is a staple in many parts of Africa, it is in short supply as the continent consumes more than it produces. For instance, half of the rice eaten in sub-Saharan Africa is imported; this takes away local jobs and income from the nearly 35 million smallholder farmers who form the backbone of rice production in Africa. Despite over half of these smallholder farmers being women, they are a minority when it comes to enjoying the same opportunities that men farmers have. Women lack access to seed, tools and implements and effective market opportunities that would make them competitive. This is changing thanks to AfricaRice’s IP approach.
Funded by the African Development Bank (AfDB), AfricaRice’s innovation platforms are formal groupings that bring together value chains in a given agriculture commodity with the aim of boosting information and knowledge sharing, and learning, to enhance the adoption of technological solutions and institutional change. Furthermore, the platforms show usefulness of new technologies and innovations designed to improve production, productivity and value addition to the crops.
Dr. Sidi Sanyang, leader of the Rice Sector Development Program for AfricaRice says research evidence shows that the women have doubled the quantity and income from parboiled rice compared to before they started using the technology. "There were selling less than 2 tonnes of rice a month now they are selling up to 5 tonnes of rice per month with parboilers," said Sanyang.